Shirin Neshat

Soliloquy, 1999

Shirin Neshat
Dimensions and medium
16 mm colour film transferred on 2 DVDs, 2 screens, sound, 17 min 33 s., 5/6
Artwork description
Consisting of two films projected on opposite-facing screens, Soliloquy is a video and sound installation that evokes the idea of identity in exile. Central to Neshat’s work is the image of the veiled woman. Here, each film follows the path of a protagonist (played by the artist) torn between two cultures: one associated with a Western metropolis (New York), and the other, with a city in the Middle East. This confrontational presentation establishes a set of relationships between the two films. While structured in parallel, their action often alternates; as one protagonist moves from place to place, the other remains mostly still and seems to observe her alter ego on the opposite screen. Meanwhile, the viewer is systematically placed in the centre of the powerful narrative and visual dialogue that emerges from the tensions that meet at the crossing of these two worlds. East and West come into direct opposition; their respective ideologies, as incarnated in images of traditional or hypermodern structures, evoke both religion and secularity, the public and the private. Shirin Neshat plays with this ambiguity, revealing commonalities between the two cultures despite their obvious differences. By referencing the artist’s personal experiences as a Muslim woman in exile, and more broadly, the universal themes of alienation, cultural dislocation and the search for identity, the work reflects ideas of loss, memory, and a profound sense of being. Soliloquy is indeed a monologue, a conversation with oneself.

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